Hospital Bar is a fan favorite, class III rapid on the Lower “Gorge” Section of the South Fork American River. It caps off an awesome day of whitewater, and, as people are quick to notice, it lives up to its name (it doesn’t send you to the hospital, it’s just really fun).
So here’s how the rapid works. After a calm pond the pace of the current picks up steadily as the the river takes a sweeping left bend. Waiting at the bottom, sitting just off the right bank, is a big curling wave. By the time you hit the curler you’ve picked up a fair amount of speed, and then the raft takes a sudden dip and goes crashing through the wave. A wall of water blankets the raft. Then you pull a right turn as the river takes a sharp right bend, and you coast by the parking garage (or catchers mitt), a rock that’s looking to catch a hold of your raft.
Hotshot Imaging and Whitewater Photos Online take your picture as you go through the rapid. There are always a few shots of your raft disappearing beneath the crash of whitewater followed by a few shots of shocked, ecstatic, smiling faces. Both companies have shops in town where you can check out your photos (they don’t post South Fork photos online).